Scientists have found that the feces (or guano) king penguins in the sub-Antarctic in the process of decomposition emit nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas. And literally checked the effect on myself.
“After you are in guano within a few hours, a person goes cuckoo. The person begins to feel ill, he laughs a lot, can hallucinate, and then a bad headache. Moreover, there is a huge dose, which is the combination of nitrous oxide with hydrogen sulfide and other gases” – said one of the study’s authors, Professor in the Department of Geology and natural resources management, University of Copenhagen Bo Elberling.
In his study, Elberling and his colleagues studied how the activity of penguins on the subantarctic island of South Georgia affect emissions of greenhouse gases, including nitrous oxide. The island is home to the largest population of king penguins in the world – according to recent estimates, it is inhabited by about 150 thousand breeding pairs.
The researchers found that the areas with high activity penguins had a 120-fold surge of nitrous oxide compared to the rest of the island. But the problem was not only in them.
Guano of penguins, gentoo sprayed on the soil was saturated nitrogen-containing compounds from krill and fish. All these components are processed by soil bacteria, which in turn, turned them into selections of nitrous oxide. Thus the territory in which dwelt the penguins, turned into a field with laughing gas.
According to scientists, even such volumes of natural emissions have virtually no effect on the climate situation in the region. However, the opening will form the basis of a more thorough investigation of how the colony of penguins change their environment.